DAY 17: A Dialogue in Darkness for Visual Imagination and Bonds of Solidarity

by Nixon Murabwa, Nairobi’s Westlands area, 7 July 2017

Musings At The Verge Of Memory, Conversations In The Dark

On a chilly Nairobi morning, six individuals from different backgrounds gathered in a quaint restaurant in Nairobi. The theme of the day being Pan-Africanism, the choice of venue could not be more inspiring, fusing modern elements to traditional African cuisine.

Nyama Mama Restaurant Westlands

The day began with outlining the program of the day as well as the introduction of the theme of the day. This was done by Murabwa Odari, founder of the Murabwa Foundation. The mode of discussion was also elaborated.

Murabwa Odari
Outline of the day of learning

Sitting cross legged and blindfolded the first session of the day began. Everyone was given an opportunity to give their personal definition, based on their personal experiences, of Pan-Africanism. You could tell that the discussants were a bit hesitant to this mode of discussion but they eventually eased into it. Their views while varying all rotated around the idea of Ubuntu, togetherness. These definitions included views on solidarity within global structures and self dignity, interconnectedness through modern technology, collaboration of African minds and integration of states.

Natalie Mukundane Kyamutetera
Natalie’s Introduction
Njoki Githongo
Njoki’s Introduction
Nyariara Njoroge
Nyariara’s Introduction
Kevin Karanja
Kevin’s Introduction
Zablon Wekesa
Zab’s Introduction
Murabwa Odari
Murabwa’s Introduction

With everyone acquainted with each other during the first session, the second session of the discussion began. The discussion was on the individuals personal experiences with Pan-Africanism, whether positive or negative, that borrow or contribute to the ideals of Pan-Africanism. The first experience shared by Murabwa put the Pan African conversation in context, shifting it from a continental outlook to a global one. He shared that upon meeting with an American with Pan African views “it lifted the veil of him thinking about Pan-Africanism as an African thing but rather as a global ideological platform”. However despite the interconnectedness today people are more indifferent to the struggles of other African persons. It is upon individuals to realize that the dignity of all individuals should be of concern to everyone.

Session two conversation

The question of what brings Africans together or how to bring them together, in this modern day was brought up. What is the uniting factor that can transcend other barriers thus uniting individuals as Pan Africanists. What defines community today? From her own personal experiences, Natalie Nkudale a Ugandan explained how in her travels she had established that one of the greatest hindrances to Ubuntu is language. This occurs even within nations, lack of unity due to tribal differences. This brings in the view that one of the first steps towards Pan-Africanism may be a common language.

In spreading Pan-Africanism the view that reclaiming our own identity despite the many cultural differences and establishing what is our shared commonality is, was broached. In Nyariara’s opinion when it comes to identifying oneself as a Pan-African it is essential to understand what it actually means to be a Pan-African. The idea of using arts or innovations was brought forward. Zablon, an artist, mentioned we should work to move beyond stereotypes and work on those commonalities thus moving towards unity. Arts which can be a mobile career, as artists are not tied to a geographical location, is seen as a great way to achieve unity. Making Pan-Africanism part of popular culture may also help in overcoming various hindrances. Thus by fusing arts and social aspects it makes it less political or far fetched.

The final part of the session was in regards to the lessons each individual had learned, in their Pan African experiences. In starting the session Kevin Karanja, elaborated that his greatest lesson from Pan-Africanism was learning of humane values. He had learned to share and care for all. Drawing from examples of African nations such as Uganda hosting large numbers of Refugees, to Zimbabwe donating cattle to the AU there is the recognition of the need to uplift others through the spirit of Pan-Africanism. “…… we see a global world coming to a point of exclusion, as long as we are fine we don’t care what others are going through….. Pan-Africanism is that is not a sustainable way, you will be fine for a while but the problems of others will trickle down to your space” was the view of Murabwa. His lesson being your enjoyment should transcend yourself and go to others.

“The lesson from Pan-Africanism is …. You have to first be proud to be a Ugandan or Kenyan before you are proud to be African.” said Natalie. Unless you are proud to be who you are there is no way you can foster the spirit of integration. Agreeing with this Nyariara Njoroge added that “be so confident and so proud of yourself so that it allows you to see others as people who add a unique value to your life.”

To Zablon one of his greatest lessons is that of embracing ambiguity. Accepting that he does not know and then venturing out to find out and learn more. Further in his view, we should invest in liberal arts so that we can tell our own stories. Also in connection to learning, Njoki was of the opinion that unlearning is also essential. On this train of thought Natalie added that we must work to overcome stereotypes.

In conclusion the participants mentioned what their take away from the discussion was as well as what can be done to promote Pan-Africanism. Nyariara mentioned that it is essential to move from the donor aid perspective to community organizing when thinking of solving various socio-impact problems. Other ideas ranged from leaning more, use of social media, sharing amongst friends and in conferences and traveling some more.

On having a conversation while blindfolded the participants gave various views. Use of blindfolds was said to enhance the attentiveness of individuals despite it starting off as intimidating. It was also seen as way to remove biases and perceptions amongst the individuals, creating the feeling of a safe space.

Final session of the Conversations in the Dark

The participants were of the opinion that, Conversations in the Dark was a noble concept that should be spread across the continent. In furtherance of this belief the foundation promised to look at how to ensure that the conversations were held across all African capitals, the first Conversation in the Dark after the inaugural one in Nairobi is to be held in Kampala Uganda in early September, plans of the same have already been rolled out.